I suppose it is obvious, but sometimes obvious things need stating. When we preach we are communicating orally. People hear us, and usually can see us, but they can’t see our notes.
What difference does this startling realization make to our preaching? Well, it should cause us to pay particular attention to the following:
1. Transitions. It is so easy to lose people in a transition. If they mentally check-out for a few seconds they can easily miss the move from one section of the message to the next, leaving them disorientated and confused. Slow down through the curves, as I think Steve Matthewson put it on his site. Be sure to take your passengers with you. Flashback and preview, underline or mark the transition in some way.
2. Follow-ability. You can look down at your notes (if you use them), or down at the text (if you don’t use notes, your message will probably be mentally associated with the passage itself). If they look down they see dozens of verses that all look the same. You need to make clear where you are in the text. Don’t make following along an extreme sport that only the most focused individuals can participate in.
3. Sense of progress. You know that you have finished four pages of notes with three to go. They don’t. Because they can’t see your notes you either need to have a clear structure that is previewed at the start and reviewed at transitions (as in a deductive message), or a clear indication of destination and sensation of progress toward it (as in an inductive message), or else a very compelling presentation that people simply don’t want to end. Otherwise they will be investing mental resources in trying to figure out where you are in your message.
4. Purpose of Illustration. You can look down and see your illustration marker and where it sits in relation to the section of the message, the sub-point you are explaining, proving or applying, etc. Because they can’t see your notes they can easily lose track of why you are telling the story about the time your Uncle took you to the fish market. Don’t just tell illustrations well, but clarify their purpose whenever appropriate.
They can’t see your notes and they shouldn’t see your notes . . . but they will see the message you preach and the way that you preach it.